God’s Zoo

God’s Zoo

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

God created the animals on the sixth day (Gen. 1:24-25). From that time throughout the rest of the Bible, He mentions them for a variety of purposes. They feature prominently in various biblical accounts: the serpent in the garden (Gen. 3:1ff), the dove and the raven on the ark (Gen. 8:7-12), Israel’s quail (Ex. 16:13), Balaam’s donkey speaks (Num. 22:28), a great fish swallows Jonah (Jon. 1:17), the father’s fatted calf (Luke 15:23), Peter’s rooster (Mat. 26:75), and, of course, so many others. They are used in a figurative sense from cover to cover, too. 

  • The devil is likened to a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), a serpent and a dragon (Rev. 12:9).
  • The false teacher is likened to a wolf (John 10:12; Acts 20:29) and to dogs (Ph. 3:2; Rev. 22:15). 
  • The apostate are likened to the leopard (Jer. 13:23) and the dog and sow (2 Pet. 2:20-22). 
  • The wicked ruler (Herod) is likened to a fox (Luke 13:32).
  • Jesus is likened to both a lamb (1 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 5:12) and a lion (Rev. 5:5). 
  • The saved are likened to sheep and the lost to goats (Mat. 25:31-34).
  • The patient, but weary, are likened to the eagle (Isa. 40:31).
  • The thirsty for God are likened to the deer (Psa. 42:1).
  • The divinely-provided for are likened to the birds of the air (Mat. 6:25; 10:29). 

Whether for food (Gen. 9:3) or food for thought (Prov. 6:6), God provides the animal for us to consider. They depict the intimacy of marriage (Song 4:5; 7:3) and the ferocity of judgment (Hos. 13:7-9). They illustrate plenty (Ezek. 34:23) and desolation (Jer. 9:11). They picture joy (Isa. 35:6) and sorrow (Mic. 1:8). 

There are great lessons to be learned upon the pages of inspiration (2 Tim. 3:16-17), messages that guide and influence our eternal destiny (John 12:48). There are facts to be instructed by, internalized, and interpreted. Yet, in addition, God has allowed the heavens to declare His handiwork (Psa. 19:1). Creation reveals a Creator who weaves lessons into the characteristics of His creatures. It is just one of the infinite marvels of our great God, endlessly complex and inexhaustibly incredible! How great is our creative God!

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Photo from Safari to Tarangire National Park, Tanzania, 2012
Ten Important Words With Good Illustrations

Ten Important Words With Good Illustrations

Neal Pollard

I–nteresting (illustrations are to grab attention or make the point memorable; beware of being one-dimensional–always quotes, poems, sports, etc.)

L–asting ( the preacher joke is that you can re-preach most sermons, you’ve just got to change the illustrations.  Why?  We remember good illustrations.  An illustration can help make a Bible lesson live on in people’s hearts)

L–earning (the purpose of the illustration is to aid in teaching the lesson; the illustration is not an end in itself.  It is a means to an end)

U–nderstandable (in that [a] people understand why the illustration was used where it was; does it fit & help establish the point?; [b] especially older illustrations or illustrations taken from those who speak formally or loftily need to adapted to your vernacular and way of speaking and not sound like you copied it out of an illustration book)

S–upportive (Don’t overdo illustrations; it’s not about the illustrations, but about the Bible lesson you are delivering; Some get this concept backwards)

T–ruthful (Be careful that your illustration will pass the truth test; Some people are jaded about “preacher stories,” finding them hard to believe or learning themselves they aren’t true; Verify as best you can the illustration you use and if you cannot verify then be careful not to pass it off as a “true story.”)

R–ealistic (In addition to truthful, make sure the illustration is “reasonable,” something people can relate to; Ex.–In cross-cultural situations, especially in 3rd-world countries, illustrations about extravagances or items said to cost “X” when the same item is either much cheaper there or is so extravagant that your audience can’t relate)

A–ssorted (Vary types of illustrations: poem, current events, historical events, quotes, parables, fables, jokes [in moderation], Bible accounts)

T–asteful (avoid overly shocking, graphic, suggestive, morbid, salacious illustrations; Wendell Winkler once said, “Avoid creating in one’s mind what you are trying to condemn” [Ex.: illustration about sexual immorality or the like])

I–lluminating (The purpose of the good illustration is to shed light on a Bible truth; It should help produce an “aha” that drives home your point)

O–pportunistic (Take advantage of current events, congregational situations, holidays, etc.  Use wisdom, common sense, and discernment to know what is and isn’t off-limits; Note: Concerning “congregational situations,” only in exceptional circumstances would I use a “negative” one rather than a positive or neutral one).

N–ecessary (Without them, lessons are dry and lifeless; Like windows without curtains; They can make all the difference in whether or not the point sinks in, convicts, and moves the heart of the hearer).